Doug Wilson's confession of faith; a postscript

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

Is this what Wilson is referring regarding it being about your church?:

“What I didn’t foresee was other Reformed pastors with high visibility through their podcasts and blogs—pastors we had cultivated respect for within our flock for many years—denouncing our elders’ leadership and decisions, and thus alienating the affection of our sheep.”

To me it looks like it is about your church, along with including other churches.

I am a fan of both you and Wilson (and Toby). One of the things I really appreciate about your teaching is your value of authority. That said, I’ve listened to a lot of what Doug and Toby have said about the Covid stuff, including masks, and while they encourage refusing to submit to unlawful ordinances, I haven’t seen anything that I would characterize as “reviling” authority. They always encourage respect when dealing with those they disagree with.

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Yes, good catch. I’ll correct it. But if this is the reason, why would Doug say he has no idea whether his and Toby’s words have been divisive and caused problems in other churches? After all, here I tell him they have. Also, and more to the point, during another private discussion both by phone and in text between Toby and one of our Trinity Reformed pastors a number of weeks ago, our pastor expressed his disapproval of their posts’ divisiveness, and in that exchange he used as an example one of our Evangel churches and pastors who back then was losing families because of this. So they knew then that the issue was for sure in our Evangel churches—yet continue to deny any knowledge of problems caused in churches. Love,

Here is my correction added at the appropriate place in the text of yesterday’s post:

CORRECTION ADDED August 21: One statement we’ve written could easily be understood to be expressing concern about Doug and Toby alienating the members of our own Trinity Reformed Church: "What I didn’t foresee was other Reformed pastors with high visibility through their podcasts and blogs—pastors we had cultivated respect for within our flock for many years—denouncing our elders’ leadership and decisions, and thus alienating the affection of our sheep.” I should have made clear this was not happening in Trinity Reformed, but in our churches of Evangel Presbytery. (Weeks ago, though, we had made this clear in private communications with Toby.) Nevertheless, I apologize for the lack of clarity in my statements above.

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Can a Christian wear a face mask at church, consistent with state regulation, to honor the governor, while thinking that the governor is a petty tyrant? Asking for a friend.

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Yes. And honoring those who are not honorable is a constant source of difficulty and similar questions for women married to men.

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Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool.

Are you saying we are to honor the fool? This Proverb (and many others similar to it) would seem to indicate that is an unwise thing to do. I would not want my wife to honor me in my foolishness.

It is like the fable ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes.’ The crowd honored his nakedness, doing him no favor, until a small boy spoke the truth.

1 Peter 2:13-19 says:

13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

Here the Christians are explicitly told to honor the king, who was certainly not honorable. Submission and honor and respect are bound up with the office itself. Though the man be wicked and foolish, still we exhort his wife to submit:

1 Peter 3:1-2: 1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

Think also of the honor with which David treated Saul, by virtue of his office as “the Lord’s anointed,” in spite of the foolish, dishonorable way that Saul was acting.

Sometimes the most honoring thing to do for an authority is to disobey an immoral command, but not with railing judgments.

Indeed, how to handle a fool in general, but especially one that has a position of authority, is one of the most difficult things the book of Proverbs addresses. It is filled with apparent contradictory instructions that require much wisdom to apply.

I hope that explains more clearly why I said what I said above, brother.

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I kind of thought the response would be like this. :wink: The way I read it there’s one tool in the toolbox, authority and submission. It comes across graceless and legalistic. Please let me qualify that I don’t know you personally and never had any personal conversations. I’m reflecting my perception of what has been written.

Though the man be wicked and foolish, still we exhort his wife to submit

Do you know this comes across as reinforcing the worst of stereotypes? “She’s so abused that she’s curled up in bed all day crying with a nervous breakdown. Tell me again how those Christians love women.”

The writing here in general does not seem to layered or nuanced or attempts to integrate others scriptures, as those in Proverbs and elsewhere. It is black and white. Submit to authority or your a rebellious witch and idolator. Perhaps a bit stretched, but not by much.

railing judgments

Like turning over tables, calling leaders snakes and brood of vipers, accusing them of making disciples twice the sons of hell that they are?

Would you censor Luther and Calvin? They had some quite salty thing to say.

In the discussion over on DW, would you categorize any of Doug’s writings in this way?

I am genuinely curious. The heat being generated seems to be over the top.

Thanks, Joseph.

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Dear Jeff,

I don’t think anybody could construe what I’ve written or what has been said by any other author Warhorn Media as you have done here.

If this is what you think, I would encourage you to go back and reread my previous two comments, as well as the countless posts that address these topics, going back for years. The fact is that I brought up several other passages, and pointed out the nuance and wisdom required in both comments. But you ignore it and twist what I’ve said, ignoring as unworthy of comment the particular biblical example I gave of David’s faith-filled interactions with wicked, dishonorable Saul, even as he practiced civil disobedience against him.

Nobody anywhere has claimed that obedience or honor are required without exception. As a matter of fact, we’ve spoken explicitly about the exceptions in our recent pieces. On the other hand, I see no nuance in your claim that there is no need whatsoever to honor a man acting foolishly, no matter his position of authority. All I’m saying is that authority and submission are not irrelevant, and anybody who has read my posts knows that is but a small part of what I’ve talked about.

Yes, I’m well aware of how a man may twist those words summarizing one of God’s commands to wives. I was not expecting my appeal to basic truths concerning sexuality to produce flak from you, however.

I assume you know very well that we have argued extensively in defense of more manly discourse. If you cannot find a distinction between “railing judgments” and manliness in speech, your argument is with the Apostle Peter, not me.

It doesn’t seem like you are genuinely curious at all, brother. You have ignored, mischaracterized, and twisted what I’ve said, assuming the worst about me, and I have no desire to continue the conversation. I hope and expect that those who are actually curious about how to obey God’s command to honor the king, even though everybody knew he was a tyrant, will read what I’ve said and be helped.

But this communication with you is simply disheartening. I’ve been very grateful that this has not been the case in general on Sanityville, even in this tense discussion where there is much disagreement. Will you please engage in a different manner in the future?

With much love, and respect for your faithful work day in and day out that brings much glory to God.

-Joseph

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You have ignored, mischaracterized, and twisted what I’ve said, assuming the worst about me

Surely I don’t assume anything bad about you. I tried, apparently quite in-artfully, to avoid impugning your character. My default is that you are a good and honorable man and why should I believe otherwise? I meant no offense.

While I’ll check in to read this is the last you’ll hear from me on this forum as my writing appears to be poor and not communicate what I intend.

Fini. And have a good Lord’s Day tomorrow.

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Yes. We’ve been making this point at church, except that parents sometimes give commands that are unreasonable and petty and yet we expect our children to obey.

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You know I’m a fan of what you all are doing at Warhorn and before that the firm resolve of the teaching of the Bayly Brothers blog. I have also benefited immensely from Doug Wilson who jumped into my life when I providentially found Credenda Agenda online around 1996/97 as a fairly new Reformed Xian who was introduced to the Reformed tradition of Stott and Packer through IVCF. As I have mentioned in some comments on Facebook this schism between the two groups has been one of the saddest effects of this strange time of COVID-19.

As I have talked with a member of Evangel numerous times about this rift, we both have mentioned how we can clearly see good points made by both groups. Yet, it appears that at least for Warhorn/Evangel, this is a controversy which will result in the breaking of fellowship. (I do not sense the same from Doug Wilson and Toby Sumpter.)

In trying to understand this conflict, I am assuming the issue that the issue for you is not one of disobeying a lawful government order, but the manner in which it is being broken i.e. the “railing” against it and other churches who seek to abide by the order. Is that correct? I would be curious if you have ever taken the time to preach or exhort parishioners that if they consciously exceed the speed limit, they are anti-authoritarian. Do you yourself consciously exceed the speed limit? I believe a speed limit, as a lawful order, has stronger legal justification since it was enacted by the legislature of the various states than masking orders which are basically made the law through authorizing acts given to a bureaucratic agency. If you do not frequently address the flagrant breaking of speed laws, why not? (If you both preach and practice never consciously exceeding the speed limit, you win strong points with me for consistency.) So I am going to assume that you do not make an issue of violating speed laws, why is the masking administrative order different? If you simply assume that people know speeding laws exist and leave it to their consciences as to whether to obey them, why not do the same with masking ordinances? Parishioners know masking ordinances exist; let some choose to wear masks and others not. Have a masking section of church and a non-masking section.

One other matter, I think we have a lot of work to do in regard to church/state issues. I do not find the Reformed tradition of the 16th centuries especially helpful, nor do I find teaching from even the faithful of the Anglican tradition necessarily helpful to our situation here. We are not an Erastian nation, nor is the head of state the head of the church. We live in a country where the written and developed law matters. An order promulgated by the government is not necessarily a valid order. And to test whether it is valid, standing must exist which means that almost always a real controversy must arise. This makes Romans 13 very challenging to apply in our situation.

Again, I would encourage you and will be praying that you not break fellowship with Moscow over this. And also don’t give the smart, skinny-jean Christians who despise both you and Moscow additional opportunities to celebrate this conflict.

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In answer to your direct question, yes, I have mentioned speed limits and our breaking of them in my sermons. Not as frequently as I speed.

The reason I felt compelled to write against Doug Wilson was that he was exhorting people all across the country to leave their churches over this issue. And they were doing it. That is actual breaking of fellowship, and he has not really backed down from it.

Yes, it’s sad, but there you have it.

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Steven (or others),

Quick question for you; where has Doug called the mask ordinances unlawful and on what grounds did he base his determination? I’m pretty sure I have read everything from him on the topic, but I have missed where he stated mask ordinances are unlawful in principle because X. Everyone I discuss this with tells me that Christ Church isn’t obeying mask ordinances because they are unconstitutional, or exceed the government’s authority, and I would like to be able to review the argument for those positions.

Clay,

I’d start here:

Love,

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It’s worth noting that this peice does not seem to be addressing mask ordinances, but the lockdowns.

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Thanks, Daniel. I have read that post, but it challenges the idea that the COVID situation meets the legal definition required for an “emergency declaration” and on those grounds Wilson opposes the lockdowns.

I agree with Wilson that a never ending emergency declaration in a state with very low current and forecasted deaths is problematic, but I’m not convinced his legal argument has any merit. The problem seems to be that the powers granted to the governor are too broad, and this is a problem that can be rectified through normal and legitimate legal and political means.

I skimmed through it again and I don’t see anything that pertains to masks wearing, or requiring citizens to take extra precautions. If I’m missing it please let me know.

We have stated the same, again and again.

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It might be more useful to think about the parent-child example, since it avoids a lot of the mental baggage Americans of 2020 have about marriage.
A 12-year-old is old enough to see that his father often makes wrong decisions when he tells him what to do. But the boy needs to realize that he has to be respectful and obey anyway, and while he can argue against his dad, he needs to do it respectfully. A lot of dads have lower IQ’s than their kids–half, I suppose.

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